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UEA recommendations on library media policy delivered to State Board

June 29, 2022

Utah State Board of Education
250 East 500 South
Salt Lake City, UT 84111

RE: Library Model Policy meeting on June 30, 2022

Dear Chair Huntsman and Members of the Board –

UEA recognizes the Board must adopt a model library policy, as required in R277-628-3(2) School Libraries. UEA supports a model library policy that is broadly defined, flexible, does not exceed what is already thoroughly prescribed in existing state code and allows locally-elected school boards discretion to create local policy responsive to educators, students and parents of students in the LEA. To date, Board Member Lear’s proposal best meets these criteria.

Specifically, any USBE model library policy should recognize:

  1. 1) Parents and education professionals are important partners working together to achieve equitable and high-quality educational opportunities for all Utah students;
  2. 2) Responsibility for final selection and curation of library materials must rest with trained, professional library personnel using the LEA’s adopted policy, procedures and selection criteria;
  3. 3) School libraries are an essential resource for schools and should contain age-appropriate materials reflecting a diversity of ideas and experiences as well as the diversity of students and surrounding community; and
  4. 4) Removing books from school libraries is a very serious responsibility that must utilize both legal guidance and professional expertise.
  5. 5) The parents on the committee need to reflect the demographics of the community.

Regarding the “Master Merged Draft” released this week:

  1. Concern about the ability for the committee to make a determination that is not based on the definitions of pornography or indecency. The rule needs more accountability to the threshold of what is determined to be sensitive materials.
  2. Parental choices should not supersede or undermine the professional librarian and their expertise.
  3. No policy should advocate to hide a book behind the circulation desk (“restricted access”) pending review and such a practice will not likely survive a legal challenge and subject the LEA that adopts the model policy to unnecessary legal liability.
  4. The policy must ensure both the education professionals and review committee are accountable to the law.
  5. The number of parents and education professionals should be balanced on the review committee.

UEA supported R277-628 School Libraries which appropriately requires LEAs to “establish a policy and accompanying procedures for the selection and reconsideration of library materials selected for a school’s library that is consistent with current state and federal law and ensure each school within the LEA complies” by September 1, 2022. LEAs already have such policy and procedures in place guiding school and library staff in the selection and reconsideration of materials. When LEAs give careful time and attention to the selection of library materials, the need for reconsideration of materials is greatly reduced. However, if any LEA’s existing library policy or procedure is not in compliance with R277-628, UEA supports local school boards working together with educators, students and parents of students in the LEA in a collaborative process that is representative of educators’ professional expertise as well as student and local community interests to revise policy and procedures.

Sincerely,

Heidi Matthews
President, Utah Education Association

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